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Early voting opens in Aussie election

Written By: - Date published: 12:22 pm, May 11th, 2022 - 33 comments
Categories: australian politics, electoral systems, gender, International, MMP, political alternatives, Politics, Single Transferable Vote - Tags: , ,

The early voting polls have opened in Australia, so the election there is nigh. Reading on the election there has been interesting. Two things stand out for me. The weirdness of having marginal seats to a political geek from NZ. The burgeoning dissatisfaction and probable deciding impact of Aussie women on this election result.

Australian federal elections runs what in essence is a first past the post system, but one leavened by single transferable vote. The election party result is decided by the number of seats that the parties and a handful of independent candidates win. Voters vote for local MPs with two votes, their primary preference and their preference their candidate is too low on their primary preference.

This is quite unlike our MMP system where you vote for the party you prefer and the local candidate you prefer. In the NZ electoral system, the party vote is of primary importance because that is what determines the electoral. That effectively minimises ‘wasted’ votes to the people who vote for political parties that don’t met the 5% threshold and who don’t get at least one seat. It causes some other issues but, despite my initial dislike back in the 1990s when MMP was introduced, I find it preferable to the Aussie system.

It also minimises a lot of the game playing by political parties and by voters that I see in discussion in Aussie. For me, reading the Aussie news it seems like almost all of the political effort by Aussie political parties goes to a very small number of marginal seats deemed as being flippable from one party candidate to another candidate.

Virtually all other seats are just left up to candidates to deal with. They are also largely ignored by the routine rampant corrupt pork barrelling into marginal seats by political parties. That pork is both is obvious and heavily criticised by all observers. However it must work since, despite criticism and corruption probes, the political parties there persist in it.

The other feature of the Aussie system are the incidence of political parties that appear to be set up purely to do political vote rorts. The most obvious of these is the United Australia Party which appears to be designed to hit a world record of the highest political expenditure per effective vote received. In the 2019 election the founder Clive Palmer spent $60 million AUD mostly in political advertising.

The call for caps on both donations and spending was echoed in separate submissions by Melbourne University’s professor Joo Cheong-Tham and GetUp.

In the wake of the surprise Coalition victory at the May election, Palmer said he had “decided to polarise the electorate” with an anti-Labor advertising blitz in the final weeks of the campaign, rather than attempting to win seats for the United Australia party. In the final week alone, Palmer spent $8m in electoral advertisements.

The submission noted the party was reported to have spent $60m on a “contentious” campaign that failed to win a single seat but Palmer “claims to have secured the Coalition government’s win with his preferences”.

“That is double the expenditure projected for both the Australian Labor party and the Liberal party combined, and 167 times that of the Greens,” it said.

“Our constitution enshrines Australians’ equal opportunity to participate in our representative democracy, and yet currently billionaires can use vast sums of cash to buy a national platform that is well out of reach to the rest of us.”

The submission warned that without spending caps “we remain vulnerable to disproportionate political influence by those with the fattest wallets”.

The Guardian: “Clive Palmer $60m election spend shows need for cap, advocates say

You’ll note that Palmer explicitly stated that the focus objective in the last few weeks wasn’t to get into parliament. It was to nobble Labour by trying to divert the second preference voters away from Labour and to the LIberal/National party coalition. The UAP didn’t wind up winning any seats at the federal election in 2019. So far this election it looks like the new UAP is running a repeat campaign of outspending the other political parties and probably doing the same this election.

You could argue (and Liberals are), that a bunch of independent women candidates generally known as “teal candidates” who’d usually support the Liberals, but who are running in inner city against Liberal candidates are doing the same spoilers. Certainly they appear to have gotten the Liberal candidates and federal party somewhat upset. Some of them look like they’re likely to win the seats. They’re being backed by and endorsed by Climate 200 which is fund that helps climate orientated candidates.

What is interesting is that the supported candidates are mostly running against a Liberal party that is:-

The teal candidates are largely relying on preference voting..

According to Green, there are two magic numbers to watch out for in polling and on election night in seats where “teal independents” are running: 45 per cent and 30 per cent.

“I have a basic measure on this,” Green explains.

“If the major party candidate — and in most of these cases it’s a Liberal — if their primary vote drops below 45 per cent, then the sitting member is in trouble.

“And if the independent [candidate] is above 30 per cent, then this is the sort of rough equation: You are relying on a strong flow of preferences, maybe 70 or 80 per cent, which you often see in some of these seats from Labor and the Greens, and the sitting member is in trouble.”


“So that’s the rough guide — you have to get strong preference flows as well. But the lower they can drive the Liberal vote, the higher the independent can poll, so any time a major party candidate drops under 45 per cent in one of these seats, they’re in trouble.”

ABC News: “Who are the ‘teal independents’? Your questions answered about the candidates fighting for some of Australia’s wealthiest electorates

Basically I’d characterise the teal candidates to be people who’d have been great for an actual Liberal party, but are running against the misogynist, corrupt, climate-denying, family- unfriendly farce that is the Aussie party with that name. The intent appears to be to get some people on the cross-benches to kick the Liberal party for losing their vote and those like them. Annebel Crabb at ABC puts it quite succinctly…

For a year now — more — it’s been clear that women are cheesed off. They were more likely to lose their paid jobs when the pandemic hit in 2020 and pick up the extra unpaid work at home. More likely to be the one in the family who’s lying awake worrying about child care and aged care (both of which are also — not coincidentally — sectors in which women are more likely to be employed, and more likely to be badly paid.) More likely to be on the frontline dealing with frightened elderly relatives, or depressed teenagers for whom mental health assistance is hard to find.

Women voters reading budgets over the pandemic might have noticed significant spending to support sectors like construction and manufacturing in which they are less likely to be employed, and negligible assistance for sectors in which they are over-represented.

The signs have been everywhere that women are on the move. First literally, in person, when tens of thousands marched in protest at the treatment of women in the parliament. Then, when independent female candidates showed up to contest inner-city electorates on the issues of climate, accountability and respect for women, an army of volunteers materialised.

The institutional response of the Liberal Party to this onslaught of capable females has been to deploy traditional tactics, suggesting that the women are hypocrites, inexperienced, vengeful, or “groupies” — the puppets of a wealthy man.

ABC: “For Morrison and Albanese, the decisive stage of the election has begun — and women may hold the key

And this shows in the polls.

The pair of polls published Monday morning — Newspoll and Ipsos — suggest that the Prime Minister is struggling overall.

But there’s a deeper story; voting patterns by gender reveal a serious enthusiasm lag for Morrison among women.

Ipsos reports that among women, 51 per cent prefer Labor and only 32 per cent prefer the Coalition. When Newspoll asked respondents who was best placed to address cost of living, 45 per cent plumped for Albanese and only 38 per cent for the PM.

What is Morrison doing to address this suspicion from women? It’s actually quite hard to establish whether he thinks it’s a serious problem.


History is littered with men of Morrison’s vintage who wake up one morning to a Dear John letter, and realise that the women in their lives were serious about how annoyed they were. Is this one of those situations?

ABC: “For Morrison and Albanese, the decisive stage of the election has begun — and women may hold the key

Ouch. The next 10 days will tell.

33 comments on “Early voting opens in Aussie election ”

  1. Jenny how to get there 1

    Hi Lprent, You didn't mention the Green Party

    My brother working in Western Australia for some decades now, has finally got his Australian citizenship. This is his first election where he will be able to vote.

    He is voting Green Party, preference 1.


    What is your view on the Australian Green Party's chances of gaining a share of influence and hopefully policy concessions from the two major parties?

    [Please check & correct your user name in the next comment, thanks]

    • Incognito 1.1

      Mod note

    • lprent 1.2

      I also barely mentioned Labour and any party apart from the liberals an the UAP.

      In case you hadn't actually reised it, the post was about the electoral process rather than providing aplace fr advertising parties.

      • Jenny how to get there 1.2.1

        Considering all the vagaries of the Australian electoral process, is it worth voting for the Green Party?

        What is the best tactical advice, I could give my brother, to get the most out his vote, to get the most action on addressing climate change and inequality?

        • Ad

          Not unless he's Melbourne Central.

        • tc

          IIRC It's all seat based so no party vote option and greenies in WA would be an endangered species IMO.

          Resource State loves it's mines and gas wells.

          • Ghostwhowalksnz

            The senate is 'party vote' otherwise you have a tablecloth sized voting sheet where every one of sometimes 30 to 40 candidates have to be numbered

            Thats what Greens are probably aiming for in WA, enough of Senate quota to get one senator out of 6 elected

        • lprent

          If he isn't in one of the Green winnable mostly central urban seats. The ABC had a list of them a few weeks ago – consider his second preference carefully.

          • Jenny how to get there

            yes Ta

          • Ghostwhowalksnz


            'The presence of climate and transparency-focused independent Kate Chaney could see first-term Liberal member Celia Hammond unseated, which has sparked an election campaign resembling something more akin to ultra-marginal seat tussles and has thrown a spanner in the works for the Liberals’ broader West Australian campaign.'

            • lprent

              Yeah. The numbers are close because the Green and probably the Labour second prefs will go to the teal candidate.

              In that link, this is why…

              When Josh Frydenberg visited Perth earlier in April he said climate change was the issue that cropped up the most in discussions with Curtin voters.

              Hammond said the Morrison government has “absolutely committed” to addressing climate change but that commitment had been “submerged in noise”.

              “This government has committed to net-zero by 2050, and it’s set out a plan for us to get there,” she said.

              “There’s $22 billion over the next decade to be invested into new emissions’ technology, but it’s also set out a plan for which we’re going to be accountable and for me, a key part of this is that the plan is not set and forget.”

              Hammond said she was most excited about the new technologies being developed to lower emissions and hoped the country would devise a breakthrough in green hydrogen.

              And anyone with half a brain in how technology develops is aware that if they don't get a basic technology break through within the next free years years, then they don't have time to implement a widespread adoption by 2050. Societal implementation typically takes about 20-25 years after the base technology gets established.

              The Aussie government hasn't significantly invested in developing climate change technologies development on this area in the past decade. They ran out of time dithering.

              Anything that will be significant needs to be extant technology with engineering improvements.

              In other words closing down coal powered replacing it with the solar/wind mixed with power storage. SMRs might get to the table as backup. But I suspect that they will be too late to compete with an established renewable infrastructure.

              Shifting transport to electricity. Currently a green hydrogen production and infrastructure still looks more like a fantasy than feasible to have societal widespread takeup by 2050.

              Same problems here. But in our case we're mainly retarded by the farming R&D being stalled for the last 30 years. There still isn't anything that looks close to being widespread deployable.

  2. Ghostwhowalksnz 2

    I dont think the Australian voting system is adequately described by this

    'Voters vote for local MPs with two votes"

    Its very different , for a valid vote for electorate MPs there MUST be a number for every candidate . Miss a number or make a mistake and its invalid

    The electorate I lived in Melbourne last election had 9 candidates , so thats 9 choices not two

    Only when a candaidate doesnt get 50% +1 then the lowest polling candidates only second choices are distributed and so on until one candidate gets the majority

    For the seat of Macnamara I mentioned The Libs won on first preferences but with 36% meant all preferences distributed to give second place Labour (31%) a majority with 3rd place Greens(24%) preferences flowing most to labour . Other candidates were a few %

    • pat 2.1

      As I understand it you need to make the candidate that you most do not want to succeed your final choice….it strikes me as an overly complicated system designed by politicians for the benefit of politicians.

      • Ghostwhowalksnz 2.1.1

        Preference voting always works like that, theres many variations but essentially all the same

        It seems complicated but the parties all hand out 'how to vote cards' and some just number from top to bottom in order.

        As voting is compulsory it works well to ensure an MP has to get over 50% to be elected

        • pat

          Not sure a system that requires a political party to tell you how to vote is necessarily a good or democratic system.

          • Ghostwhowalksnz

            Its a modern fact of life. The Party name is next to the candidate in NZ voting papers.

            The 'party vote' is a metonym for for the party list of names ( also on the booth wall.)

            Candidates here and Australia are chosen by the party. This aint Ancient Greece anymore

            • pat

              Yes the candidate is selected by the party….but the method of voting shouldnt be.

              If the process is so complicated that a good proportion of the electorate dont understand how to vote without detailed instructions there is something very wrong with the system.

          • Belladonna

            IDK… perhaps a system which effectively imposes an intelligence test in order for your vote to be counted, isn't all bad 🙂

            Yep, tongue in cheek.

            But FPP is a very easy to understand voting system – just tick once.
            Voting where only the allowed candidate is on the ballot, is even easier.

            Any system which attempts to define 'majority' as anything other than 'candidate who got the most ticks' is going to be more complex.

            If you can’t cope with the complexity of ranking your choices from best (or least bad) to worst – then perhaps you don’t really know enough about the issues to vote….

            • pat

              "If you can’t cope with the complexity of ranking your choices from best (or least bad) to worst – then perhaps you don’t really know enough about the issues to vote…."

              Except the system dosnt work on that basis….

              • Ghostwhowalksnz

                Yes it does you arent even understanding your own link. Incredible!

                  • Ghostwhowalksnz

                    What is this ? So you throw links around an issue that requires explanation. Thereby proving you cant explain anything or dont deign to.

                    • pat

                      The complexity is the explanation….it is not a simple case of ranking the candidates in the order of your preference due to the fact that the lowest polling candidate is removed at every count if an outright majority is not achieved first off and the votes are reallocated….that requires significant knowledge of polling and statistics for the voter to rank the candidates in such a manner that their first preference receives the best chance of capturing the seat….how many voters have such an in depth knowledge of both all the candidates polling and an understanding of statistics (or the inclination/time) to make an informed ballot?….hence the voting cards provided by the parties.

                    • Ghostwhowalksnz

                      And yet they do, as only 29% use the how to vote cards

                    • pat

                      29% use the cards (approaching a third of voters) and what percentage understand how their preferences will be applied or consider anything more than their first preference?….not to mention the over 5% invalids.

                    • Ghostwhowalksnz

                      30% of NZers probably dont fully understand MMP here either . But the full understanding doesnt prevent them voting with a very good idea of the outcomes. I find its rare for a person, even a media commentator that knows that list Mps have an actual vote count to be elected- List MPs are unelected is a common thought that the party vote goes 'to parties'

                      The preference distribution isnt difficult either , from lowest eliminated and up till one person has the required 50% +1

                      The informal vote high is because voting is compulsory, and you do get a fine if you dont vote , so disinterested voters either dont number or make other marks to have invalid vote

            • Temp ORary

              We have STV down in Ōtepoti , though it being noncompulsory means we can bail out after the first ranking without ballots being rendered invalid. Personally I find the first and last half dozen rankings easy enough for the DCC, but remaining dozen odd mid-range candidates are just this side of random selection. Though it is worth the effort for me to list the lot just to put Vandervis and Whiley down the bottom. A lot of people seem to run for Mayor (14 in 2019!) to increase their visibility as a Councillor candidate, rather than having any expectation of winning.


              The complexity doesn't seem to put that many people off. In 2019; 46.9% of eligible electors (which itself is only 70% of total Dunedin population) participated in the Mayoral election. Which is not great, compared to; the Chatham's 70.1%, but still better than; Christchurch, Tauranga, Wellington, Hamilton & Auckland.


              • Ghostwhowalksnz

                Yes. Thats quite common to have less than all the candidates to be ranked by number.

                Its used for Australian Federal Senate as they have a sort of 'party vote' option at the top of the ballot paper where you rank at least six parties only and their candidates are automatically ranked in order. ( with provisions for ballots that are under the minimum to be counted)

                And for the individual candidates part of ballot only 12 need to be ranked not all

  3. Ross 3

    If only we had such honest election adverts here, and funny too!

  4. Ghostwhowalksnz 4

    Some good information on the 2019 election- which Morrison just won, against what polls had predicted


    Green is a respected and knowledgeable election analyst and highly recommended

    'A consequence of a higher minor party vote was an increase in the number of seats going to preferences. Of the 151 House divisions, 46 were decided on first preferences. There were 105 contests where preferences needed to be distributed, at 69.5%, the highest proportion ever recorded.'

    However only in around 10% of seats – or 15- was the initial result ( if it was FPP) changed by preferences . Usually second place moves to first.

    The Greens used to be 60% of the total minor party vote but is now down in the 40% range as more parties contest. Clive Palmer has splashed massive amounts -$60 mill plus- on his party and its populist message .

    Often his TV ads against Labour have more impact than the 5% of the vote the UAP got

    And some info on the last election seats when it was Greens vs labour as final two or Greens Vs Liberal as final two candidates

    ‘There were three Labor versus Green contests where Liberal preferences were distributed. In line with preference policy since 2013, the Liberal Party recommended preferences for Labor ahead of the Greens. Liberal preferences flowed 66.1% to Labor in Cooper (formerly Batman) and 60.7% in Grayndler. Liberal preferences flowed 51.5% to Labor in Wills, where the Liberal candidate had been disendorsed and presumably there were fewer Liberal how-to-votes.”

    “Kooyong and Melbourne finished as Liberal versus Green contests. In both seats Labor recommended preferences to the Greens, and the flow was 83.4% in Kooyong and 80.4% in Melbourne. Labor had disendorsed its candidate for Melbourne during the campaign.”

    • lprent 4.1

      Yeah I quoted some of Green on the current election in the post about the current election specifically about the teal candidates…

      According to Green, there are two magic numbers to watch out for in polling and on election night in seats where “teal independents” are running: 45 per cent and 30 per cent.

      “I have a basic measure on this,” Green explains.

      “If the major party candidate — and in most of these cases it’s a Liberal — if their primary vote drops below 45 per cent, then the sitting member is in trouble.

      “And if the independent [candidate] is above 30 per cent, then this is the sort of rough equation: You are relying on a strong flow of preferences, maybe 70 or 80 per cent, which you often see in some of these seats from Labor and the Greens, and the sitting member is in trouble.”

      The reason why he is expecting some quite high second preference flows (from some analysis elsewhere) is because Greens can push to a climate based candidate. Labour voters aren't giving their vote to Lib – they're giving it to a centre independent with a chance of winning.

      Hell even the UAP voters will prefer a winning independent as second. UAP propaganda targets Labour, but also targets the ineffectual Lib/Nats. It is a protest vote – and what could be more of a protest than making the winning candidate be an independent.

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